Eastern Spadefoot, Pelobates syriacus

The Eastern Spadefoot (Pelobates syriacus) known also as the Syrian Spadefoot, is a species of toad belonging to the family Pelobatidae, native to an area stretching from Eastern Europe to Western Asia.

The eastern spade foot is a plump toad with a large sized head, a flapped topped skull, large protruding eyes, and vertical slit-like pupils. It can grow to a length of about 3.5 inches. The skin is smooth with a scattering of small warts. The male individual has a large gland at the back of his forelegs which becomes enlarged during the breeding season. The front foot has four toes and the back foot has five with deeply indented webbing between them. The hind legs are short and at the back of each hind foot is a yellowish bony protuberance, the inner metatarsal tubercle or spade, that gives this frog its name. the color of the frog is quite variable, the back frequently being pale grey with large, greenish, irregularly shaped blotches and the belly being pale grey.

It has a unique call, usually emitted from underwater and frequently continuing all through the night. It is a quick staccato “clock…clock…clock” that can be heard from some ways away.

This frog is nocturnal and returns to the same place each night when it has finished foraging for mollusks, insects, spiders, and other small arthropods. As well as digging its own burrow, it occasionally makes use of a rodent hole or a crevice underneath a rock. At times when the temperature of the air is very hot, it retires to the deepest part of its burrow and may aestivate in mid-summer. At these times, the toads that live in the moist soil of riverbanks may fare better than those elsewhere and in times of drought, there may be a high mortality rate among these toads.

During the winter, it hibernates among tree roots or under rocks, sometimes several toads huddling together. Breeding takes place from February to May depending on the location. Ditches and stagnant pools are preferred locations for amplexus. Several thousand eggs are laid in broad bands of gelatinous material that may be .8 inches thick and 3 feet 3 inches long. The tadpoles hatch after about three days, eat algae and water weeds, and grow for three or four months before they go though metamorphosis into juvenile toads. Many of these burrow into the mud at the edge of ponds to over winter but some of them may over winter as tadpoles.

Image Caption: Eastern Spadefoot. Credit: F. C. Robiller/Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)